When it comes to coffeehouses Japan easily trumps the rest of the world. The land of the rising sun is after all home to maid cafes – establishments staffed by attractive cosplayers who serve scrumptious omelettes decorated with adorable ketchup art. Over here, on the other hand, we have Starbucks – a tax dodging conglomerate frequented by hipsters who have a taste for overpriced swill. Maid Sama, a twenty-six-episode anime based on Hiro Fujiwara’s manga, happens to star a teenage girl who works part time at a maid cafe. The series follows the young protagonist as she struggles to cope with academic duties, a demanding job and the unwanted attentions of her school’s number one heartthrob.
Misaki Ayuzawa is the student council president of Seika High; a school were eighty percent of the pupils are male. Desperate to improve the standing of her ailing academy Misaki rules the school halls with an iron fist, taking a zero tolerance approach when it comes to dealing with unruly boys. Her distain for all things masculine may stem from the fact that Misaki’s family is debt ridden, after her estranged father abandoned the Ayuzawa household. In order to make ends meet Misaki makes a modest income by serving customers at Cafe Maid Latte. Thus far the student council president has managed to keep her occupation a secret from classmates, but all that changes when she crosses paths with Takumi Usui.
Takumi is Seika High’s resident heartbreaker. His dashing good looks attract babes, like moths to a flame, but to date he has rejected every confession of love aimed at his direction. His disinterest in girls ends when he spots Misaki at her workplace. Perhaps he is drawn to her feisty personality or maybe he just has a fetish for French maids… either way he becomes enamoured with her. The feeling isn’t initially mutual, but Misaki is forced to endure Takumi’s presence. If she doesn’t tolerate his shenanigans there’s a danger that he will expose her unusual hospitality career to everyone on campus. There’s no quicker way of losing the respect garnered as student council president than by revealing to the horn dogs in class that you spend your evenings wearing a frilly uniform and calling the patrons master.
It appears that Maid Sama is one of those shows that divide audiences. From what I can tell the series has a passionate fan base, but most of the online reviews I have read are negative. For what it is worth I think the anime is a decent romantic comedy. My rating is three and a half stars, as the contents of this first collection had me chuckling consistently. The only dud in the set would have to be episode nine’s unfunny parody of Japanese folklore. I think the series attracts ire from critics due to its lightweight storylines, although that’s a tad unfair given that in most comedies plot takes a backseat to laughs. Misaki participating in a sports festival, dealing with Maid Latte’s quirky theme days or fleeing from a quintet of admirers won’t win any literary awards but it does the job of setting up the scene for hilarious hijinks.
One thing that Maid Sama has over other romance shows is its protagonist. Misaki is nothing like the meek ladies you find in other examples of the genre. She’s a strong self-dependent woman who practically runs the student council by herself, in addition to supporting her family financially. Thanks to a combination of She-Hulk strength and Aikido training she also avoids the trope of being a damsel in distress that requires rescue from prince charming. Misaki does however push herself too hard on occasion, so it’s good to see that Takumi is always close at hand to offer friendly advice and support. He’s a pleasant chap so it’s easy to forgive how his pursuit of Misaki verges on stalking. To his credit Takumi has more chutzpah than other shojo males. From the offset he is very forthright in declaring his feelings to Misaki, although he does take his foot off the gas when he sees how uncomfortable the confession makes her feel.
Viewers looking for an animated rom com, that leans more on comedy than romance, could do a lot worse than Maid Sama. Buying this DVD collection is far more value for money than purchasing one of those extortionate caffeine rich beverages. As the saying goes, Starbuck lattes are like a whore. They both suck and they both empty your wallet!